Living the choice for life can be difficult


Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time – February 16, 2014
Sirach 15.15-20 | Psalm 119 | 1 Corinthians 2.6-10 Matthew 5.17, 20-24, 27-28, 33-34, 37

Kathleen Giffin

February 3, 2014

"Life is difficult." So begins Scott Peck's classic, The Road Less Travelled. Not only is it difficult, it's also complicated, textured with so many ways of seeing, so many ways of living, so many meanings, opportunities, distractions and choices.

Yet, Sirach makes it sound as though it is simple. "If you choose, you can keep the commandments; . . . to act faithfully is a matter of your own choice."

"But," the sinner protests, "sometimes I don't even know what the right thing is, sometimes my impulses and desires get the better of me, sometimes I'm not strong enough to choose, or I can't do the good I would choose."

The Lord has placed before you fire and water; stretch out your hand for whatever you choose. – Sirach 15.16

'The Lord has placed before you fire and water; stretch out your hand for whatever you choose.'

Sirach 15.16

Who among us finds it easy, to simply choose the right way, choose life and then follow that way? Sirach doesn't exactly say the process is easy, that it's easy to choose or easy to live that choice.

Sirach says we get to choose. We get to choose the road we walk on; we get to choose life or death. Although the majority of us find it more complicated than that, we must still face the essential truth of our free will and capacity. God does not command something that is not possible.

As a child, I remember having a simple faith and desire; I wanted to be a saint, I wanted to please God. That youthful desire and decision was not enough to fast track me to holiness; seeing some of those complicated other options in life drew me further and further away from pursuing that early desire.

I remember, too, as a young adult the experience of recognizing the fundamental choice before me: to choose life or death, to choose God's way or my own way. Again, there was no hesitation; I was able to throw myself into the pursuit of good and the commitment to discipleship.

Yet still, that was not enough to sustain me, for life got even more complicated with husband, children, community, finances, family, work, commitments, aspirations, frustrations and anxieties. Now I am almost 60, and I doubt I'd be up for canonization if I died tomorrow.

Yet Sirach says, and God says, that faithfulness is a matter of our choice, and faithfulness leads to holiness. So since it is possible, how do we find our way?

I have two answers; one is embedded in the midst of Sirach's insistence on the control we have of the choices we make. He says, "If you trust in God, you too shall live. . . . He is mighty in power."

The other answer is to follow the witness and example of those who have gone before us, those who have lived in remarkable and exemplary ways their choice of life, their choice of goodness and love.

It is not enough for me to have made my commitment to God however many times I have done so. I must choose again, throughout each day, moment by moment, to trust God and follow his way.

(Kathleen Giffin